Syrian regime forces use cluster munitions to bomb IDP camps in Idlib
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights today releases its monthly special report summarizing the human rights situation in Syria during the previous month, documenting the most prominent human rights violations committed by the parties to the conflict and the dominant forces in Syria in November 2022. Amongst other things, it reveals that Syrian regime forces used cluster munitions to bomb IDP camps in Idlib.
The 22-page report provides details of the most prominent violations documented in November 2022, and of the civilian victims, who were killed by the parties to the conflict and the forces in control during this period, in addition to providing a summary of the arrests/ detentions and enforced disappearances, along with other information. It also sheds light on the attacks on civilian objects which SNHR has been able to document during this period.
In compiling our reports, SNHR relies on continuous monitoring of incidents and news reports and on information from a wide network of trusted contacts from dozens of diverse sources, in addition to exhaustive analysis of a large number of photos and videos.
In November, the report reveals, SNHR documented the killing of 64 civilians, including 14 children and two women (adult female), most of whom were killed by other parties. Among these, the report documents the killing of one medical worker and six individuals who died due to torture at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria. Furthermore, the report documents two massacres taking place in November.
As the report reveals, November saw no fewer than 196 cases of arbitrary arrest/detention documented, including 11 children and three women, at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria. The majority of these were arrested or detained by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus suburbs, then Damascus, and then Daraa.
The report further notes that November witnessed at least 19 attacks on vital civilian centers, including six at the hands of Syrian regime forces in Idlib governorate. Three of these attacks targeted educational facilities, while six targeted IDP gatherings/camps.
The report additionally reveals that, in November, Syrian regime forces continued with their artillery attacks targeting Idlib in northwestern Syria. The bombardment seems to have been concentrated on the villages and towns of Jabal al-Zawiya in the southern suburbs of Idlib governorate and the western suburbs of Aleppo governorate, and Sahl al-Ghab in western Hama governorate. These areas are all close to the dividing lines with armed opposition factions. In addition, Syrian regime forces carried out ground attacks that mostly targeted civilians harvesting olives around the towns and villages of the southern suburbs of Idlib, which are relatively far from the dividing lines. In one of these attacks, on November 6, Syrian regime forces used missiles loaded with cluster munitions in an attack that targeted a gathering of densely populated IDP camps in a hilly area of western Idlib city. The attack resulted in a massacre, in which nine civilians were killed, including four children, two women, and an unborn baby. Additionally, the bombardment caused heavy damage to dozens of IDPs’ tents in the area, with IDPs forced to flee these camps for safer areas in fear of other attacks. Furthermore, the report records that in November, Russian forces carried out more aerial attacks on northwestern Syria, targeting Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) military sites. The attacks were concentrated in the areas around the Bab al-Hawa Crossing in northern Idlib, as well as in the villages and towns of Idlib’s southern and western suburbs. Meanwhile, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continued its military escalation in northern and eastern suburbs of Aleppo, carrying out a number of ground attacks. Clashes between Daraa residents and gunmen, believed to be ISIS affiliates, went on throughout the first half of the month after breaking out on October 30. Those clashes, which broke out in Daraa city’s Tareeq al-Sad neighborhood, resulted in the death of multiple civilians, with dozens of families fleeing the neighborhood for nearby ones, while other local residents fled to the western suburbs of Daraa governorate.
From November 19-24, SDF-controlled territories saw aerial attacks by Turkish drones and fixed-wing warplanes that used missiles to target multiple SDF military sites in al-Hasaka, while other attacks targeted oil refineries and oilfields in al-Malekiya and al-Qameshli areas. In addition, Turkish forces carried out aerial and ground-based attacks targeting other SDF-held areas, including al-Shahba area in the northern suburbs of Aleppo and the areas of Manbej and Ein al-Arab in the eastern suburbs of Aleppo. The escalation comes as part of the ‘Claw-Sword’ military operation unveiled by the Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar on November 20.
With regard to bombardment, the report says that November saw a number of IED bombings and the explosion of weapon remnants from previous bombardment in the governorates of Daraa and Aleppo. Meanwhile, landmines continue to claim civilian lives across Syria. November saw six civilian deaths, including one child, caused by landmines, raising the civilian death toll from landmines since the beginning of the year to 122 civilians, including 62 children and six women. Moreover, the report notes that November saw new assassinations of civilians by unidentified parties. The assassinations took place in different areas across Syria, mostly in the governorates of Daraa, Hama, Deir Ez-Zour, and Aleppo.
As the report further notes, Syria’s economic, service, and living conditions continued their ongoing decline throughout November in all regions of the country as civilians desperately grapple with the winter and freezing weather conditions. We documented rising rates of emigration, usually occurring through illegal means, as people search for more safe and stable places to live.
Furthermore, the report notes that 1,529 cholera cases and 49 deaths caused by cholera have been recorded according to the latest figures released by the Syrian regime on November 26. In northwestern Syria, meanwhile. the Early Warning Responses and Network Program (EWARN) noted that as of November 27, northwestern Syria has seen 418 cholera cases and 12 deaths from cholera.
As the report further reveals, IDPs in the northwestern region of Syria are still facing grueling living and humanitarian conditions, especially with a worsening economic situation and mounting needs, all made worse by an unprecedented decline in support from relief organizations, an almost complete absence of new job opportunities, and the continuing freefall of the currency’s purchasing power especially in areas of IDP camps.
In northeastern Syria, the suffering of the IDPs also increased due to the cholera outbreak amid a severe shortage in drinking water and the declining presence of relief organizations that should provide support for the IDPs and improve food security and healthcare for the families.
The report stresses that the evidence collected suggest that attacks have been directed at civilians and civilian objects. The Syrian-Russian alliance forces have committed a large variety of crimes, from extrajudicial killings, to arrests, torture and enforced disappearances. The report notes that these attacks and indiscriminate bombardment by air and ground forces have caused the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, shops and other structures, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
The report affirms that the Syrian regime has violated international humanitarian and customary law, and UN Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 2139 and resolution 2042 related to the release of detainees, as well as resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
The report further notes that the continuing indiscriminate and disproportionate shelling carried out by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces is a clear violation of international humanitarian law, with the group’s indiscriminate killings amounting to war crimes.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to take additional measures after the adoption of Resolution 2254 and stresses the need to refer the Syrian issue to the International Criminal Court and to hold accountable all those involved, including the Russian regime, all of whom have been proven to be involved in the commission of war crimes.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council should adopt a resolution on the prohibition of the use of cluster munitions and mines in Syria similar to the existing prohibition of the use of chemical weapons, which should include points on how to dispose of the remnants of these dangerous weapons.
The report also calls on all relevant United Nations agencies to make far greater efforts regarding humanitarian, food and medical assistance in areas where hostilities have ceased, in camps for internally displaced persons, and in the follow-up of funding from states which have pledged the necessary voluntary contributions.
The report further calls for the application of the principle of the responsibility to protect (R2P), especially after the exhaustion of political steps through all agreements, statements of cessation of hostilities and Astana agreements, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII and apply the R2P principle, approved by the United Nations General Assembly.
The report additionally recommends that the International Independent Investigation Commission (COI) should open investigations into the incidents contained in this report and previous reports, and confirms the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ readiness to cooperate in any such endeavors and to provide more evidence and details. It also calls for the issue of mines and cluster munitions to be highlighted in the COI’s next report.
The report also calls on the UN Envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres and to denounce those who are mainly responsible for the destruction of the agreements on reducing the escalation, as well as calling on him to restore the peace process to its normal form after Russia’s attempts to distort it and to present the Constitutional Committee to the transitional government.
The report also stresses the need for the Syrian regime to cease its indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and its use of prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, and to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report further stresses the need for the countries supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces to press the SDF to cease all their violations in all the areas and towns under their control. In the report, the SNHR again calls on the Syrian Democratic Forces to immediately stop recruiting children, to hold all officers involved in doing so accountable, and to undertake to immediately return all children arrested for military conscription to their families.
The report further recommends that armed opposition factions and the Syrian National Army should ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, distinguish between military and civilian targets, and refrain from any indiscriminate attacks.
The report additionally stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans with a view to securing dignified, safe shelter for internally displaced persons; and to provide care facilities and mechanisms such as medical establishments, schools and ambulances with markings visible from long distances, as well as making a number of other additional recommendations.